What History is good for

Service-learning and studying the past

in Learning and Teaching
Author: Michael Smith
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Many disciplines in the social sciences and humanities can offer profound insights into what it means to be human. History, however, encompasses the totality of human experience: economics, politics, philosophy, art, ethics, sociology, science - all of it becomes part of history eventually. Therefore, the opportunities for incorporating service-learning (carefully integrating community service with academic inquiry and reflecting on insights derived from such integration) into history courses abound. Many historians have taken advantage of this opportunity. Few historians have undertaken a scholarly investigation of the learning taking place in their service-learning courses, however. Indeed, despite the fact that the reflective process so central to service-learning lends itself remarkably well to the scholarship of teaching and learning (it generates very rich data on both the affective and content-based learning students are experiencing), there has been little published SoTL research from any discipline about service-learning. Drawing on qualitative evidence from an honours course comprised of 16 students at a private liberal arts college in the northeastern United States, I argue that not only does service-learning in history lead to more active citizenship, but that it also leads to deeper appreciation of an historical perspective as a key ingredient for being an engaged citizen.

Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

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